‘42?’ What kind of answer is that?
I’ve never been a fan of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
To be fair, I’ve never given the book a chance, and I’m basing my entire dislike for Douglas Adams’s cult classic strictly on a bad film that starred Mos Def, Sam Rockwell and Zooey Deschanel. And honestly, I didn’t even see much of that film; just enough to think, “This sucks,” and change the channel.
Perhaps I’m a Neanderthal, and hardcore science fiction fans will likely deride my tastes and my inability to give such cerebral and thought-provoking fare more of an opportunity to work its magic over me. And, all things considered, I should probably do so sometime over the next year.
After all, I turn 42 on Friday.
That’s a random age, completely nondescript for most people ... but as Douglas Adams fans know, “42” is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.” It’s a lot more complicated than just that, and the nonsensical idea that “42” should be the ultimate answer to everything lies somewhere, I suspect, in the labyrinthine plot of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I have no idea if such an integer is integral to the plot or the punchline of a really bad joke. If you do, please enlighten me, because I’d really like to know if this will be the year that I figure out the answers to life’s ultimate questions.
I know other dudes who have passed this milestone, however, and they still seem relatively clueless. Not in a bad way, necessarily; it’s just that they don’t seem as enlightened as worshippers of “The Guide” might lead one to believe that those who bow at the altar of “42” should be.
My pops, for example, purchased a Commodore 64 computer around the time of his 42nd birthday back in 1984, at least if I remember correctly. Not to make fun of dear ol’ dad, but that thing was hardly the portent of the future that many of us were led to believe back then. In fact, I’d say there are several thousand Commodore 64s serving as boat anchors in backwater towns where electricity is still considered a relatively new innovation.
No, it appears as if 42 is just another year, just 42 stony gray steps toward the grave, the box that awaits its grisly load, to quote the Very Rev. Dr. D. Wayne Love. Sad to say, I doubt I’ll awaken Friday with a head full of new knowledge that’s somehow been uploaded to my brain “Matrix”-style, or with any sort of epiphanies that will allow me to cure cancer, solve world hunger or fatten my personal coffers.
And so I will have to make due with other examples of “42” in popular culture to guide my way through the coming year. It is, for instance, the title of a very fine sophomore album by local blues-rock band Quartjar, so named because of the aforementioned affinity of band founder Randall Brown for “HG2G.” It is also the title of a film (which I also have not seen) detailing the career by African-American baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, who wore the number on his jersey.
Other interesting facts about 42 that I found in a lazy 30-second glance of Wikipedia:
• It is the atomic number of the element molybdenum. Molybdenum, by the way, is a metal, of which I know nothing except that it appears to be shiny when you look it up on Google Images.
• In Japanese culture, the number 42 is considered unlucky because the numerals when pronounced separately — “shi ni” (four two) — sound like the phrase “unto death.” This apparently scares the hell out of Japanese people.
• In the Biblical book of Revelation, it is prophesied that The Beast will hold dominion over the Earth for 42 months.
• Lewis Carroll, the man who created “Alice in Wonderland,” was apparently quite fond of the numeral himself.
• “42” is the name of one of the songs on “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends,” a 2008 album by the band Coldplay, which is considered in some circles as “Radiohead Lite” and/or One of the Most Boring Bands on the Planet.
• The USS Enterprise, classification NCC-1701-D, in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” has 42 decks. I am rather embarrassed to admit that I already knew this.
• There are 42 U.S. gallons in a barrel of oil. I think everyone should get a free barrel on their 42nd birthday.
• Most likely, out of the dozens — perhaps hundreds — of you who bothered to start reading this column, only 42 of you have actually made it to the end. Of that 42, perhaps six of you will think, “Hey, I should call or email and wish that Wildsmith guy a happy birthday on Friday.”
Of those six, all will have forgotten by Friday. None will buy me presents, which is a shame and something of a letdown, I freely admit, in a very selfish and childish way.
Although if you decide to buck that prediction, I beg of you: Please no copies of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I appreciate the gesture, but an Amazon gift card is a much better gift. I promise, I’ll buy a book that will help my year-long quest to find my own personal “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.”
Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (email@example.com) or at 981-1144.